The word exercise evokes many different emotions. For those of us who don't do it, it's akin to cleaning out the garage or, even worse, having to write a term paper. Then there are those other people who live to put on their spandex and bounce around and sparkle and make the rest of us feel guilty.
Exercise is (very, very, very) good for you
We all know that exercise is good for us. Interestingly enough, often we don't realize how good. The benefits ofexercise are far reaching and include:
- general sense of well being;
- improved mood;
- increased strength, balance, and fitness level;
- improved cardio respiratory reserve.
The list does not end there. Current research indicates that strength training can improve your HDL (good cholesterol) and lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. For women in particular, strength training can help us maintain bone strength and minimize bone-density loss associated with aging. This is critical to maintaining our quality of life in our later years.
Why it's so tough
So why don't we exercise? I think there are two primary reasons why so many of us don't exercise. First, we often feel too busy in our fast-paced culture. Second, we often aren't intentional about determining what will motivate us to exercise. As women, we are often motivated by things like our outward appearance or that upcoming wedding or reunion and the dress we want to somehow fit into. Goals are important, but I'd like to suggest some deeper motivations: What do I want my life and my health to look like long-term? What can I enjoy about exercising? That's right, I said enjoy. Let's face it. If we don't figure out how to enjoy it, we aren't going to be able to sustain it. The beauty about deciding to get fit is there are so many options—it is possible to find one you can enjoy. You can start with very little in home equipment, such as a stability ball, a yoga mat, and an exercise band, or you can opt for a membership at the local gym. The key is to find what works best for you.
Find what fits you best
I think there are two primary reasons why so many of us don't exercise.If you are new to exercising, I recommend that you try a couple of different forms of exercise to learn what lights you up. When I am in the middle of a workout or running down the road for a training run, I admit it is work. I don't necessarily want to keep moving. Things ache. Sometimes I pant and I have to deal with sweat. While I may not enjoy every single moment of running—especially the hardest moments—overall I really do enjoy it. I've learned that I often enjoy "solo" runs. It's my time for me. I also look forward to my one or two runs each week with my running buddies. The camaraderie makes it easy and keeps me at it between times when we meet up. The payoff for exercising is when you are done. Pay attention to how you feel right after you've finished your workout. I have never regretted getting myself out the door for that run or the 30 to 45 minutes in the basement listening to my favorite music and doing my strength-training exercises. It feels great once it's done. One of the biggest rewards to staying fit is the sense of accomplishment. Each and every workout is an accomplishment.
Consider joining with others
So should you exercise on your own or with someone else? One option is not better than the other. This is up to your personal preference and what you choose may change with different seasons of your life or even different days of the week. One great thing about exercise is that it not only meets fitness needs and goals, but it can meet social needs as well. You may not know if exercising alone or with others will motivate you more until you try them and pay attention to how it feels.
To get started, just pick something. Remember: The beauty of exercising is all the options. Consider the possibilities: strength training, running, CrossFit, yoga, walking, soccer, swimming, rock climbing, martial arts, basketball, biking, dance, ballet, Jazzercise, Zumba, weight lifting, and so much more! So sign up for that dance class you've always been interested in. If you're afraid, recruit a friend to do it with you. Try yoga. If you need that extra push and accountability to get you on track, consider working with a personal trainer to help you by creating a specific plan to meet your needs and help you reach your goals. Group classes can be wonderful for moms looking for some adult time when the kids are little. Many recreation centers have childcare available to make it possible. If you work nine to five, you may want to choose an early morning workout to get your day started or finish your day with a de-stressing fitness class.
Women should not be afraid to lift weights. You will not bulk up and look like a man; men's muscles get larger due to the testosterone in their bodies. Women can really benefit from the strength and toning that comes from a strength-training program. Strength training will lower your percentage of body fat by increasing your lean muscle mass. As you build muscle, the scale may not reflect your fat loss but the size of your jeans will. Muscle weighs more than fat tissue and holds more water so the scale is not always an accurate indicator of your improved fitness.
Make it a lifestyle
The beauty of intentionally adding exercise to your priority list is that it can become a wonderful sustainable lifestyle that will infuse healthy outcomes into other areas of your life. We are whole people. Exercising affects me spiritually as well as physically. My exercisetime is often my getaway time with God when I am on one of those solo runs or walks. When I'm meeting a group to run together at the local park it becomes time for community and connecting with others. If you keep at it, you will begin to miss your time spent exercising on those days you aren't able to do it. That's because it has to be about so much more. Once you begin to establish a track record of exercise and health, it will influence other choices that you make in the areas of nutrition and self-care. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by taking in lots of information or making too many changes all at once, let it unfold gradually. There is a lot of information out there and everyone has ideas on what we should and shouldn't do. Remember to run it through the filter that you are uniquely created by God. Your body is a gift and you should be a good steward of that gift. What's right for me may not be right for you. All exercise involves one primary thing: movement. I love my running because it can be hard and I cannot get there unless I take one step after another. Sounds a lot like life doesn't it? So, what's your next step? Get moving. Be prepared . . . you will like the results!
Anne Weirich is a RRCA certified running coach, and a registered nurse with a master's in science management. Among her other volunteer efforts, she leads a local area run site for Team World Vision, overseeing more than 100 runners in preparation for the annual Chicago Half and Full Marathons.
What Moves You?
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